IT HAD ME AT HELLO
Oh geez, in between life in general and an unexpectedly eventful visit to my OBGYN which involved an adorably named chocolate cyst, I’m going to quickly leave you with, nonetheless, a recipe for my favorite thing to eat these days. This is a dish inspired by a restaurant called Neighborhood in Hong Kong’s central district, which serves predominantly French bistro-style dishes with a spritz of Japanese infusion, and in this case, classic beef tartare served with fresh sea urchin roe on top. For the record, I have NOT had this particular dish at the restaurant. It wasn’t offered on the menu by the time I visited, and so I created my own rendition at home. The major difference is that their standard beef tartare is mixed with chopped raw oysters, which I omitted because fresh oysters just isn’t something that Hong Kong markets excel at, and for the many times that I’ve pushed my luck, I wish I hand’t, so.
But, having said that, you’ve got to try this. I would want to sell you on how the creamy sweetness and foie gras-like richness of the sea urchin blend almost biblically beautiful with the irony savoriness of the beef tartare, and how the infusion of the two, including the cold and silky touches it feels on your taste buds, comes to a marvelous clash with the warm crunches of the toasted baguette. And I could go on.
But the truth is, if you’re my kinda people, it had us at hello.
- 7 oz (200 grams) fresh beef tenderloin or top round
- 1 medium shallot, peeled and grated
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 1/2 tsp finely minced pitted black olives, or caper (see note)
- 1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
- heaping 1/4 tsp fine sea salt, plus more to adjust
- 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 small pinch of sugar
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tbsp ~ 1/4 cup of super fresh sea urchin roe/uni
- toasted sliced baguette to serve
- Cut the beef into thin 1/8" slices, then into thin 1/8" strips, then into small 1/8" cubes. They don't have to be perfectly sized. And if you feel that the cubes are too large, you can roughly chop them further. You can prepare the beef ahead of time, transfer into a large bowl, plastic-wrap and keep chilled until it's time to serve.
- Right before serving, add grated shallot, egg yolk, minced black olives (or capers), Dijon mustard, sea salt, ground black pepper and sugar to the cubed beef. With a large fork, mix to combine, then add the extra virgin olive oil 1 tbsp at a time, and mix until the mixture has just formed an emulsion and is creamy. DO NOT over-mix the beef that it breaks up and turn into ground beef-like! Re-season with more sea salt if needed. Transfer the beef tartare to a serving plate, then top with about 3 tbsp~1/4 cup amount of fresh sea urchins. Sprinkle with more sea salt on top, maybe a little minced chives or scallions. Serve with toasted sliced baguette.
You can choose to either use pitted black olives or capers to dress the beef tartare. For those are more sensitive towards raw meets or sea urchins (or if you have doubts about how pristinely fresh the sea urchins are), black olives offer a more robust cover to the party, leaving only the sweetness of the sea urchins to be detected on the taste buds. But for those who love the irony taste of raw meets and roe-like flavor of sea urchins, capers will allow them to shine through while adding a subtle acidity. In my case, I used black olives in the photos only because I ran out of capers.